true detective

True Detective, S1E8: Form and Void (Episode Recap)

The camera slowly zooms in on an old, one-story brick building with a mural painted on the side similar to the one in the Light of the Way school, one of an antlered woman in a forest. We hear Errol speaking and then we see him from behind. He’s cheerfully talking to a man who’s tied spread-eagle to a table in front of him. On Errol’s bare back, we see the spiral brand as well as other scars. He’ll bring the man water later if he’s good and then says, “Bye, Daddy.”

Errol leaves the brick building and approaches a large house across an overgrown driveway. The house is reminiscent of (and probably is) the “master’s” house of an old plantation. Errol plays with an aggressive German Shepard. Inside the main house is a vast amount of hoarded items: dolls, magazines, etc. Errol stops to watch an old Cary Grant movie (North by Northwest, I think) playing on a TV by the stairs. A woman calls to him and Errol replies in a British accent. He goes to the kitchen where the woman is cooking and says, “It’s been weeks since I left my mark. Would that they had eyes to see.”

True Detective, S1E7: After You've Gone (Episode Recap)

It’s present day. Rust and Marty are grabbing that beer together. They comment on how they’ve aged and Marty says,”Father time has his way with us all.” Marty asks why they’re there, and Rust explains that the SPD is looking at him for the Lake Charles murder. He frets over the lack of press for the murder and a potential cover-up; his rhetoric unfortunately sounds paranoid. Marty expresses concern for Rust’s health, and Rust admits he’s been “functional but hammered” for the past ten years, eight of which he spent back in Alaska working fishing boats and bars.

Marty asks why Rust would come back, and Rust says it’s the same reason why he’s talking to Marty. “A man remembers his debts”, he says, which Marty mistakenly takes as meaning that Rust believes he owes Marty some kind of debt. When Marty says he doesn’t “dwell on the past”, Rust says, “Well, it must be nice.”

True Detective, S1E6: Haunted Houses (Episode Recap)

A white guard escorts young Marty to the jail’s holding cells. The guard unlocks the door to a cell containing two young white men, saying he needs to go on his rounds and will return in about twenty minutes. The young men look nervous; these two were the ones found with Marty’s daughter. One insists he didn’t know Audrey’s father was a cop and meant no disrespect. His friend agrees that they didn’t mean any disrespect.

Marty, deceivingly calm and removing his ring, says they’re looking at statutory rape charges. He asks if they know what happens to “pretty boys like [them] who go up to the farm on statch rape charges”. He removes his jacket, marvels at how their cell door just swung open, and invites to step out “for some air”.

True Detective, S1E5: The Secret Fate of All Life (Episode Recap)

A red truck with a white trailer pulls up to a roadside bar. Rust and Ginger are waiting inside. A white man with shaggy hair and a beard walks in. Ginger and Rust sit at a booth across from this man, who we learn is not Reggie Ledoux but someone who works directly with him (present-day Marty mentioned Duwall in the last episode).

Ginger makes up an excuse about the injuries to his face, and Rust starts in on his fake drug deal, “coke for crystal”. Duwall seems preternaturally suspicious and turns Rust down. Rust asks why, and the man leans forward to say, “I can see your soul at the edges of your eyes. It’s corrosive, like acid. You got a demon, little man, and I don’t like your face. It makes me want to do things to it.” Duwall chastises Ginger and says to Rust, “There’s a shadow on you, son.” He leaves.

True Detective, S1E4: Who Goes There (Episode Recap)

Young Rust and Marty interrogate Dora Lange’s ex-husband Charlie (Brad Carter) about his former cellmate, Reggie Ledoux. They accuse Charlie of having Reggie murder Dora on his behalf, which Charlie denies. The notion that Reggie killed Dora greatly upsets him, but Rust isn’t buying his act, which only makes Charlie angrier. Charlie confirms that he talked to Reggie about Dora and that early in his sentence before she asked for a divorce, Dora gave him explicit Polaroids, which he also showed to Reggie.

Rust asks about Charlie and Reggie getting along as cellmates, and Charlie says they did only out of necessity. He didn’t want to befriend Reggie because the guy was “[a] creep”. Marty wants to know why Reggie’s a creep, and Charlie tells them Reggie’s a “chemist” who cooks down things like kitchen cleansers to get high, which is a “big deal in [prison]”. Charlie recounts some of the things Reggie talked about while high, such as a “place down south where all these rich men go to devil-worship" and to sacrifice women and children. Charlie name-drops Carcosa and the Yellow King and mentions that Reggie has a brand on his back in the shape of a spiral, which Reggie told him was “their sign”.

True Detective, S1E3: A Locked Room (Episode Recap)

Rust and Marty have called in backup to gather photographs and any physical evidence from the abandoned church. Then we find ourselves at a tent revival sermon where Minister Joel Theriot (Shea Whigham) is preaching. He says to the congregation, “You are a stranger to yourself, and yet He knows you.” Theriot talks of God as being both the stars and the wind between. Then he says, “This world is a veil, and the face you wear is not your own.”

(pessimism, hypocrisy as the norm; Chambers reference) Already some interesting things being said. Theriot speaks of self-deception. The world as a veil, like Rust’s “secret truth of the universe” line from the last episode, calls to the “forbidden knowledge” theme common to the short stories of Chambers and his contemporaries. When Theriot tells the congregation that the faces they wear are not their own, it’s likely a reference to the usage of masks in Chambers’ stories. “The Mask” is one of the titles in The King in Yellow compilation, which is introduced by another of the few excerpts from the imaginary The King in Yellow play. We’ll see literal masks later in the season, and “mask” will also be used in a line of dialogue.

True Detective, S1E2: Seeing Things (Episode Recap)

Present-day Rust says he often thought of his wife and daughter when he couldn’t sleep. Then he says, “Something’s got your name on it, like a bullet…or a nail in the road.” Detective Papania asks for Rust’s opinion of the lattice being found in the Fontenot shed so many years after Marie’s disappearance. Rust agrees it was strange. He mentions Marie’s school closed down in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew and asks if that means anything to the detectives.

A “nail in the road” could be quite literal for Rust. We learn later in the episode that the day his daughter was put into a coma, she was playing on her tricycle in the driveway of their home, which sat on the bend of the road. My best theory, based on the scant details we get, is that a passing vehicle ran over a nail that burst one of the tires, causing the driver to lose control of the car. It careened onto Rust’s driveway and hit his daughter.

As we’ve already surmised, Gilbough and Papania suspect Rust is the Lake Charles killer (as well as the killer of Dora Lange), so it’s easy to pick up on the subtle incredulity of the two detectives’ line of questioning. Last episode, they asked how Rust knew to follow up with Danny Fontenot about a seemingly unrelated (and seemingly resolved) five-year-old missing child case. Rust shrugged and called it intuition. This episode, they convey how odd it was for the lattice to show up so many years after Marie Fontenot disappeared. Pay attention to their wording.

True Detective S1E1: The Long Bright Dark (Episode Recap)

The premiere-season opening sequence (long as hell, like all HBO shows) shows silhouettes of our two stars (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson), often superimposed with a landscape or building that an American viewer might associate with a rural area. We also see non-celebrity people an American viewer might associate with the South or a rural area, also superimposed with buildings or objects. Other people seen in the opening credits include a praying white man whom we’ll see later, the wife of one of the detectives, and nameless, often half-obscured women or parts of women who are naked, their bodies paired with images like truck stops, playground slides, and spiky heels. Other imagery includes fire, water, churches, and the Christian cross.

The opening sequence is rather straightforward. The accompanying song, “Far From Any Road” by The Handsome Family, is the right blend of American Folk and Gothic to match the show’s tone. The imagery leverages common stereotypes of the rural South—small towns, fiery religiousness, bayous, truckers in baseball caps sitting in bars, female strippers, etc. Much of it implies a sort of other-worldliness. The imagery of women both directly exploits (from an entertainment perspective) and implies exploitation (from a story perspective).